What is Somniphobia?

Somniphobia is the intense and irrational fear of sleep.

This fear is unexpectedly common, as sleep disturbances like nightmares and stress about work or relationships can lead to or reinforce Somniphobia. Those who have frequent nightmares are at greater risk.

People with this phobia might experience insomnia, sleepwalking, and bed wetting.

This fear is also called "Hypnophobia", the fear of being hypnotized, a condition where the person is literally made to go in a sleep-like state. The term “Clinophobia” originates from the root word 'clino', which is Greek for 'bed'.

The root word 'somnus' is Latin meaning 'sleep' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Somniphobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Somniphobia

Somniphobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Such phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Somniphobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Those with sleep disorders, a fear of nightmares, etc., may develop phobic fears of sleep as well.

General unhappiness or stress can be a powerful trigger. Many phobics report a feeling of dread on Sunday night, knowing they have to work in the morning, for instance. Diagnosis naturally relies on a determination of the severity of symptoms, as many people may “dread” going to work the next day, etc.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Somniphobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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